OVER THE FREEWAY & THRU THE NEIGHBORHOOD

public housing; Houston, TX

By occupying the airspace above and by acting as a magnifying glass onto the freeway, this project elevates the expressway's shared experience to one of collectivity, to a public space and spectacle. Residents and guests connect in new ways to the city's gas-guzzling heartbeat, and as they do, Houston's infrastructural workings and vehicular choreography go from unlivable and isolating to lived on and unifying.

Formally, the housing project is a composition of two object-characters and an inclined plinth that cantilevers over the freeway. The upper and lower surfaces of the inclined plinth strike two parallel lines that formally and programmatically unify the project. The lower surface is the "work level" where residents work out, produce goods in the ring of workshops, set up business endeavors in micro-storefronts, and do their laundry. The lower surface incorporates a public street that connects pedestrian access over the imposing infrastructural barrier while inviting the public to patronize the storefronts along the way. The upper surface of the plinth is the "play level" where residents and the public recreate, where downtown Houston parades elevate off the street, and where urban tourists can pitch a tent on its warmed surface.

The two object characters contrast the plinth's performance as an alternative ground. The objects are a pair of friendly monuments, distinct but from the same family and wearing the same structurally-informed clothes. Their skins are graphic patterns that saturate their outer surface with uniformity, denying the reading of individual housing units. At the same time, the alphabetical-resemblance of each module of the fa├žade calibrates the field and provides residents with moments of graphical reference. The modules thicken and thin to accommodate structural loads. Locations of entry and penetration are accentuated by exaggerating the pattern at isolated moments.

© CARTOGRAM 2013.